Hong Kong: Treaty of Nankin

“‘Hong Kong is an island which came into the possession of the English by the treaty of Nankin, after the war of 1842; and the colonizing genius of the English has created upon it an important city and excellent port” (Jules Verne, 79).

After the loss of the first Opium War, China was forced to pay 20 million silver dollars to the British victors and sign a treaty to open China up to foreign trade. The Treaty of Nanking or Nanjing was the first of the unequal treaties between foreign imperialist powers.  The treaty was signed on August 29th, 1842.  The signing of the treaty by the emperor of the Qing Dynasty introduced western powers into China. As a result of the Qing Dynasty’s loss in the first Opium War, the Qing emperor had no choice but to sign the treaty which gave the British ability to trade at five ports instead of one.  The five ports in China opened up to foreign trade were Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai.  The people of China blamed the Qing government for the invasion of foreign powers and illegal opium trade. The British saw the winning of the first Opium War as a great triumph and Hong Kong remained under British control until 1997.  China regained control of Hong Kong in 1997 and this represented an end to a colonial way of life.

The Signing of the Treaty of Nanking (29 August 1842)

Bilingual pages in the Treaty of Nanking